Monday, January 8, 2007

Wednesday Jan 9

10:30 a.m. Outside Montefiore Home
What thoughts go tru my mind, the una-
voidable death claimed another one
who was so near and dear to me, I am
waiting here for the removal of the remains

1:20 at South Ferry waiting for a boat
to take us across

7:00 P.M Finita la Comedia
The curtain has fallen marking
the end of a drama, the end of a
tragic life, the life of a beloved person, -
Only a handful of relatives and
friends attended the last rites of the
burial. Her memory will ever be
enshrined in My heart.

I pray to the Allmighty that I should
not have to make such entries
in this my diary.


Matt's Notes

Once again Papa time-stamps his entry, as I am beginning to think he does in times of excitement or stress. And once again he
gives us more evocative images of New York life in 1924:

- In the morning, he stands outside the Montefiore Home and Hospital for Chronic Diseases on Gun Hill Road in the Bronx, a grand, gray building with a facade as ornate as its name. Perhaps he's alone, perhaps he pulls his hat tight over his head against the cold, perhaps he watches a motorcar chug by, perhaps he wonders for a moment where the horses have gone.

- He pulls his journal from his pocket -- does he always carry it? -- and scribbles, concentrates intensely. Perhaps an orderly, on his way into the building, mistakes him for a reporter.

- The next snapshot finds him on the tip of Manhattan, again waiting, again fishing for his journal, a pen, a thought. Were there gulls? Is the sky overcast, or is it clear enough to see whitecaps all the way to Ellis Island? Does Ellis Island make him think of the Other Side, his cousins there, does he suddenly realize he is no more likely to speak to them again than to the one he's about to bury?

Mourning makes us feel like the stars of our own tragic operas, and Papa, buffeted and exhausted, feels it keenly this day. It emerges in his reversion to nearly Victorian language, in his resigned tribute to "the inevitable death" and in the quote he scribbles from "Pagliacci." He seems to struggle with anger over the depressing dearth of mourners for the woman who has been the center of his day. At last, though (and here I again look for lessons in how to be a human being from young Papa) he closes not on a note of frustration, but with a promise to mourn his cousin on behalf of those who have already forgotten her.



2/6 - I just realized something -- Papa was a Cohen, or a member of Judaism's priest caste believed to be directly descended from Aaron. Cohens are forbidden from touching the dead or entering the houses of the dead (except for immediate family) which explains why he stood outside Montefiore and waited for his cousin's body to be brought out.


  1. I am Phyllis, Harry Scheuerman's daughter. This entry is so typical of him. He loved family above all. His kimd heart breaks for this beloved cousin. I am trying to track down her identity.

  2. This is from Shirley, Harry Scheuerman's niece.

    As I read this, I saw his dear face in front of me. He was a man I always loved and respected.

    Also Matt, I am extremely touched and impressed by your comments about your grandfather.

    P.S. I was motivated to get out my 1941 junior high school autograph book and read the loving message your wonderful grandfather left for me.

  3. I am very moved by this confirmation of a statement always invoked by my own father, Abraham Kahan, that as a Cohen, he wasn't allowed to get near the dead nor attend a funeral. Though I later found out that the Talmud did indeed forbid the Cohanim contact with the dead, I thought that my father, who was a confirmed atheist, despite his having been born in a very pious family, also in what was the Austro-Hungarian empire at the time (now Ukraine), used this interdiction as a pretext to avoid showing his emotions. Both facts may be true, of course.